V season 2 episode 1 review: Red Rain

V returns for its second season run, and Ron finds it taking the right road, too. Here's his review.

This review contains spoilers.

2.1 Red Rain

We open on New York City, the first day after the Visitors spring their latest trap in a bid to go from peaceful to killful, a mysterious fluid known as Red Sky. Seen among the piles of corpses littering the street is one Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell) who somehow survived her exposure to Red Sky with her faculties intact and has time to go for a wander through the dead-strewn streets of New York to look for her alien-lusting son Tyler (Logan Huffman), whose face spontaneously melts in one of the better-looking effects in the series history.

Anna (Morena Baccarin) shows up to gloat and then we get the big reveal that our cold opening was only a dream from a guilty-hearted Erica, whose carefully timed cryogenic grenade killed a litter of Anna’s children in the season 1 finale.

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Unfortunately, that means Tyler is still around and not everyone on V is dead. However, on the plus side, the sky is still an awesome shade of reddish pink, giving everything an awesomely Pepto Bismol pink hue. It also calls into effect Anna’s leadership ability, as her sudden release of Red Sky has caught the captains of the other 29 V ships off guard. It’s also caught humanity off guard and the results are typical humanoid: rioting and prayer, and not in that order, and it’s throwing a major kink in the whole ‘Visitors are good!’ party line the Visitors had worked so hard to put into place.

Perhaps the ship captains are right to worry about Anna’s judgment, as in one rash moment she undid weeks or possibly months of good will. The Visitors on Earth are retreating, humans are stockpiling guns and medical supplies in preparation for Armageddon, and Anna just released one of her frequent tormentors, Ryan (Morris Chestnut) back onto Earth after having him back on board the ship.

There’s one benefit to Anna’s recent discovery of emotion, it seems. She’s discovered the power of blackmail, and she’s going to use Ryan’s hybrid baby as a leash to yank around Ryan once he rejoins the Fifth Column. Pretty sneaky, alien sis! Furthermore, Anna uses her gathering of V ship captains to remind everyone that she’s still the boss via brutal murder. Because, err, by killing someone in a fit of rage is a great way to demonstrate you’re still under control, I guess?

Speaking of sneaky, as it turns out, Erica can be sneaky herself. When a riot breaks out at the Visitor Welcome Center with Tyler in the middle, rather than telling her son to hightail it to safety, like any normal mother, she tells him to stay in the middle.

When Tyler does something predictably stupid, Erica uses her son’s conked skull as an excuse to get on board the ship under the guise of getting him medical treatment. It’s a wonderful nod to the way that Anna is using her own daughter Lisa (Laura Vandervoort) to manipulate Tyler.

They’ve done some tinkering to the show during the break, apparently. The Visitor ships seem to be better designed now, a bit weirder and slightly more sterile. Ditto the various glimpses of the Visitors in body form. Anna’s tail wasn’t quite successful, but the flayed V captain was wonderfully done, and the hybrid baby in the green tank of space goo was also a wonderful split between creepy lizardling and normal human baby. It’s not the most effective CGI, but it’s good enough for what it is designed to do, and the shudder factor is off the charts.

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The show’s plots seem to be getting better (and moving faster), but the writing quality isn’t. It still feels like the characters are explaining plot points to the audience as they go along, rather than actually talking. Aside from a few moments where the explanation made sense, a lot of the show’s more technical aspects just don’t seem to work well. In particular, the show’s reliance on convenient scientists like Dr. Sidney Miller (Brett Harrison) to explain things that Ryan, being an alien, ought to be able to suss out for himself. The fact that there are no listed writers for Red Rain has me a bit worried, but it’s a huge improvement over the dreck that made up significant portions of last season, even if nobody wants the credit for it. I don’t care who writes what, so long as the result is good, and this is good enough.

The acting is improving, as well. I’d forgotten in the months that passed just how good Morena Baccarin is in this role. When her mask slips, it reveals so much about Anna’s true character and true emotion, and the shift in moods is so subtle that if you’re not paying attention, you might miss it. She’s grown into the role of Anna quite well. You see a lot less of Hobbes (Charles Mesure), Decker (Scott Wolf), and Fr. Jack Action Priest (Joel Gretsch) this episode, but that’s good, because it means the show has a little bit of focus this week.

The best moment of this week’s show, aside from the action chase involving some mild elements of parkour during a chase scene, is the big reveal at the very end. Anna checks out of boss mode and heads down to her private swamp lounge to have a talk with the one person who can help her with the mantle of leadership, her mother Diana (Jane Badler). That’s right, the real V queen is back, and if you don’t think I cackled madly and clapped when she walked into the light, you don’t know how much I loved the original V. Diana is going to push the show to a whole new level. Now, if only we could get Robert Englund and Marc Singer on board, then we’d have something!

The bottom line is that the show needs to make  serious ratings improvement if it’s going to stick around through the end of this season. ABC has already cut the show’s ordered amount once, and if the ratings don’t pick up, it’ll probably end at the end of season 2. I’m not hopeful for the show to continue, even if it does continue to improve, so I hope the writers are prepared to wrap things up for us at the end of this season, just in case. I really hope it doesn’t come to that, as the show returns with some positive signs of life in spite of its flaws.

V is never going to be as groundbreaking as the original, but I think people overestimate what the original show was. It was spectacle. It was humans fighting aliens. It was lizards eating rodents. It was racial tension expressed galactically, but mostly it was fun. I really hope New V can pull that off as well as Old V did with the time it has left. With the direction it’s taking, it seems to be heading down that road.

Read our review of the season 1 finale, Red Sky, here.

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